the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
Notes & Snapshots from Abroad
Recent Tweets @lenachen

As I promised in yesterday’s entry (about how to approach a speaker for an event), I’m going to post an example of how NOT to pitch someone an idea/brand/partnership/etc. Most of the time, the PR people who want me to write about their client on my blog are from the publishing industry or from web companies. I do not respond to 99% of these requests. (If the sender is a social justice organization, then I’ll actually read the entire note from beginning to end, and if relevant to my work, I’ll likely respond, but those emails are in the minority.) A lot of these press releases are mass mailings to media lists that I never asked to be placed on in the first place. So, I don’t feel bad about the fact that they go straight into the oblivion that is my Gmail Archive. Especially since these tend to be very hit-or-miss. Think: dating guides (ugh, gross), chick lit, and self-help books. I barely have time to read substantive stuff, so I’m not going to waste energy leafing through the various ways to “man-whisper” to your mate — and no, I’m not kidding about the “man-whispering”, that was an actual book that was pitched to me.

Anyhow, I know that I get these because someone put me on a mail merge, and the emails are not personal anyway, so I find my inclusion in the recipient list relatively unoffensive, even if the content is appalling. Occasionally, however, I do get personal pitches or pitches that are written to sound personal, even though the writer is totally faking it. Here’s a piece of advice: if you don’t know anything about a person’s work, don’t pretend like you do! Because you will just look like a tool.

Check out the following note, which I did not bother responding to for obvious reasons. Names redacted, because I don’t feel like ruining anyone’s PR career:

Hello Ms Chen

I can’t say that I am an avid reader of your blog, as it’s been about 5 years since I graduated from Brown and my Harvard friends left years ago as well… With that said, after reading through it today,I can say that it’s well written, well made, and well suited for us to be partners.

I’m writing to you today from IvyDate ( Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s from the same guys who founded the wildly successful DateHarvardSQ venture. IvyDate is their next giant leap.

We have formed partnerships with many of the top relationship consultants and dating bloggers in NYC and across the US. We’ve more or less wrapped up this process and are preparing to launch our blog with links to their sites and their original content. After stumbling onto your site today, I realized that it might be mutually beneficial for us to work with you as well. 

Please visit to see what we are all about, and take a look at this press release recently written about us. It might make interesting material for a blog post.

We aim to bring a new form of dating to NYC, London, Boston and then the globe, and we would be delighted to speak with you about how we can work together. You can reach me at any point at [redacted], or at [redacted]. I look forward to hearing from you


First of all, punctuation is your friend! Second of all, you so did not read my blog or else you would’ve realized that I am NOT down with any of the following, which your press release encourages:

  • Creating bubbles where Ivy Leaguers can frolic exclusively with other Ivy Leaguers rather than having to acknowledge the existence of mere commoners who *GASP* may have gone to state schools, the horror!
  • Patting people on the back for their privilege (reality check: a fancy degree doesn’t represent innate intelligence or ambition)
  • Portraying Ivy League grads as more mature and worthy partners simply because they went to a school that allowed them to work for the (gold)Man.
  • Promoting the idea that those without education or high-powered jobs are less deserving of mates

Seriously, how self-congratulatory do you have to be to create an Ivy-only dating space? And by the way, the first rendition of this site was basically the online version of Millionaire Matchmaker. As in, “Hey, dudes with lots of money: here are hot chicks who will date you because you went to Harvard!” The company isn’t even PRETENDING like this is about compatibility.

And you know what? This is one URL of millions, and I could really give less of a shit. But if you’re going to write me a personalized email? Try not to insult my intelligence (which, FYI, I don’t attribute to a Harvard degree) by making it seem like your product is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY when in fact, a cursory reading of my blog would reveal fairly quickly that your mission statement likely makes me want to hurl up my dinner and hurl you back to the Stone Age.

Also, I’ll post your email to my blog and be bitchy about it. So, there’s that! Don’t piss me off, kids.

  1. groupuscule said: "(gold)Man," that’s a good one
  2. erinmjustice said: Man, this made my morning. Thanks, Lena!
  3. lenachen posted this